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Chemical Sensors for the Water Environment

Harold Hemond
William E Leonhard (1940) Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Leader, Environmental Systems Group
MIT Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Knowledge of the water chemistry of lakes, reservoirs, rivers, estuaries, and coastal waters is essential to managing both the waters themselves and their watersheds. Classically, however, water quality data are limited to those that can be measured as part of a manual sample collection program, and have low spatial and temporal resolution. Many natural processes, by contrast, are dynamic on time scales of days to hours, and are heterogeneous on length scales ranging from sub-cm to km or more.

In-situ chemical sensors and data networks offer the promise of solving this mismatch problem by providing near-continuous chemical records at multiple locations in natural water bodies. Several key technologies that can contribute to this goal will be described, with a focus on electrochemical, optical, and mass spectrometric sensors. Concepts for in-situ chemical flux measurement will also be discussed.
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48 mins
ILP Video

The Role of Efficiency in Solving the Energy Crisis

Leon Glicksman
Professor of Building Technology and Mechanical Engineering
MIT Department of Architecture
In the next few decades, the most effective avenue to deal with our energy and environmental challenges is energy efficiency. In the US and Europe, the buildings sector is the largest consumer of primary energy. The challenge is the lack of a single “silver bullet”; rather the sector demands an integrated set of solutions. These include both innovative technology and improved behavioral programs. Examples include the application of big data, passive cooling systems and design using simplified tools. While retrofit of existing structures is most important in the developed world, in the developing world the challenge is enhancing the performance of soon-to-be built urban areas.
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42 mins
ILP Video

Mammalian Synthetic Biology: from parts to modules to therapeutic systems

Ron Weiss
Professor of Biological Engineering
Director, MIT Synthetic Biology Center
MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Synthetic biology is revolutionizing how we conceptualize and approach the engineering of biological systems. Recent advances in the field are allowing us to expand beyond the construction and analysis of small gene networks towards the implementation of complex multicellular systems with a variety of applications. In this talk I will describe our integrated computational / experimental approach to engineering complex behavior in a variety of cells, with a focus on mammalian cells. In our research, we appropriate design principles from electrical engineering and other established fields. These principles include abstraction, standardization, modularity, and computer aided design. But we also spend considerable effort towards understanding what makes synthetic biology different from all other existing engineering disciplines and discovering new design and construction rules that are effective for this unique discipline. We will briefly describe the implementation of genetic circuits and modules with finely-tuned digital and analog behavior and the use of artificial cell-cell communication to coordinate the behavior of cell populations. The first system to be presented is a genetic circuit that can detect and destroy specific cancer cells based on the presence or absence or specific biomarkers in the cell. We will also discuss preliminary experimental results for obtaining precise spatiotemporal control over stem cell differentiation for tissue engineering applications. We will conclude by discussing the design and preliminary results for creating an artificial tissue homeostasis system where genetically engineered stem cells maintain indefinitely a desired level of pancreatic beta cells despite attacks by the autoimmune response, relevant for diabetes.
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43 mins
ILP Video

Engineering Computation, Diagnostics, and Living Materials with Synthetic Biology

Timothy Lu
Associate Professor
Research Laboratory of Electronics
MIT Synthetic Biology Center
MIT Department of Biological Engineering
MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
xponential improvements in semiconductor technology have catalyzed amazing advancements in electronics over the past several decades and revolutionized modern life. Similar to Moore’s Law, exponential improvements in our ability to sequence and synthesize DNA are underway which promise to transform our ability to leverage biology for a wide range of applications. Synthetic biology is an emerging engineering discipline that aims to leverage this ever-improving ability to read and write DNA in order to introduce novel functionalities into living systems, such as computation, sense-and-respond systems, and the ability to synthesize living materials.

I will discuss our recent efforts to engineer living bacteria, yeast, and human cells with genetic parts, devices, and circuits in order to compute and record information using digital and analog paradigms. Furthermore, I will describe how the tools of synthetic biology can be used to generate next-generation microbial diagnostics. For example, we have engineered synthetic bacteriophages that enable rapid, sensitive, and specific detection of microbial pathogens. Finally, I will discuss how living cells can be used to create living materials by organizing self-assembling materials (such as proteins and gold nanoparticles) across multiple length scales, nucleating the formation of inorganic materials such as quantum dots, building conductive biofilms, and implementing ultra-strong underwater adhesives.
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30 mins
ILP Video

Rapid Prototyping Tools for Engineering Complex Genetic Programs

Ben Gordon
Director, MIT-Broad Foundry
MIT Department of Biological Engineering
Broad Institute Technology Labs
Our lab develops rapid-prototyping techniques for synthetic biology. Although biological systems hold promise as engineering platforms for applications across a wide variety of industries, a key challenge to realizing this potential lies in determining how to encode effective genetic programs. As systems increase in complexity, delicate tuning of individual genetic components is necessary in order to maximize program performance while minimizing adverse impact on the host. We address this challenge by building and testing genetic designs in bulk. We develop high-throughput methods for design, construction, QC, and debugging of entire libraries of genetic programs, and we then use the collected data to inform the design of new libraries. By reducing the time of this design cycle, we can rapidly iterate toward effective designs. In my talk, I will provide an examples of how we are applying these techniques to research, and I will also describe how we work with industrial partners to bring these techniques to bear on projects of commercial significance.
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